Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Diplomatic Passport

Shiny new passport.
Was issued my diplomatic passport this week.  Might be a while though until I get to use it as there aren't very many opportunities for temporary assignments this year and for the Contracts function, they typically try to keep us all in DC to help out with the end of year rush to obligate awards before the fiscal year end (September 30).

The diplomatic passport though does not mean I would have diplomatic immunity wherever I travel.  Rather, it really just signifies I am traveling under official government business. 

Diplomatic immunity is only granted on a bilateral basis between countries.  So if I am to be posted to a particular country, then a listing is sent from our embassy to the partner country declaring those on diplomatic business and agreed upon by the other.  Only at that point is diplomatic immunity granted. 

Still, having a black passport definitely is pretty cool!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A little about the DLI-17 Class

USAID's DLI-17 class is a fairly big class of 45 people.  Many people came with experience in the development world but there are also a good number of people that came in with none.  Almost everyone has some international experience of some sort but there are a few that also have none.

In terms of demographics, age-wise, the mean tends to be in the late-twenties to the mid-thirties.  However, we have some in the mid-twenties and others in the 40+.

In terms of education, most everyone has a graduate degree but there are some exceptions.  A large number have degrees from prestigious universities in the US.

The majority of people have significant others of some sort.  Those who have not reached the relationship point of engagement though tend to be facing the upcoming issue of how to maintain the relationship with the spouse having very limited job options when following overseas.  At least when overseas, the decision of the spouse working won't be a deciding factor whether you'll be able to put food on the table and more of a means for self-satisfaction, fulfillment, or ambition.

As a whole, the class is very ambitious, intelligent, and committed to the objectives of USAID and passionate about helping others and seeing improvement in the lives of others around the world.  USAID is undergoing a number of reforms to re-establish itself as the world's premier development agency and promoting the importance of development to our nation's prosperity and security.  I feel very optimistic and confident in facing the challenges to come.

With Agency Counselor Bambi Arellano after Orientation Graduation - 4/15/2011.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Passport DC

Last weekend and this weekend, many of the embassies in DC had an open house to the public allowing people to tour the embassies and experience some of the culture of their respective homes.  I was really excited about this event and greatly enjoyed seeing the inside of different embassies and view other countries' public diplomacy efforts.  I only was able to make it to about 15 embassies during the open house event but feel we made pretty decent time in absorbing the information and indulging in the offerings of the ones we made it to.

Some of the embassies went through some extraordinary effort for their open houses to include live music, free food and wine tasting, and plenty of give-away and fun things.  Others displayed their embassies in a very perfunctory and lackluster manner.  And then some, to my disappointment, seemed to commercialize the event to make it similar to some of the various fairs one might attend where there might be a show of some sort and then just overpriced food and trinkets for sale.

My favorites were those that seemed as if you were entering one's home or a festive party with good atmosphere and interesting cultural items and relics on display.  I was very much impressed by some embassies whose countries I previously knew very little of or once gave no thought.  I was most impressed by the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago and the Embassy of Botswana, both countries I knew very little of until after visiting.

There were other pretty good embassies and almost all of them gave away some fun swag.

Maraca from Embassy Nicaragua
Showing off the digeridoo at Embassy Australia
Aussie tattoo
Food from Embassy Botswana.  Notice the BBQ worm!
Incense from Embassy Croatia

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Attended an event hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPA).  Basically, this organization is like an Affinity Group but on a national scale.  So they work to ensure access and opportunities for Asian Americans in the US in general as well as encourage their participation in public service or politics.  I was invited to attend this event by my cubemate who is a FSO from the prior (January) DLI class and her sister was a coordinator for this event.

This particular event was to kick off the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) as well as honor the Asian American Presidential Appointees: Department of Energy Secretary Chu and Department of Commerce Secretary and future Ambassador to China Secretary Locke.

DoE Secretary Chu
DoC Secretary Locke

It was cool to be able to see important political figures speak and interesting meeting and networking with people from many different agencies.  It's very different hear people introduce themselves from various government agencies rather than I work on XYZ program as an ABC which I was so used to.  I'm sure though the mystique will wear off and it will just be normal.  It's also interesting, but expected, how the majority of people you'll meet in DC is a transplant from somewhere else in the US.  It's been very uncommon for me to meet people that are actually born and raised DC or the close surrounding area.

It was also interesting for me to hear that when both Chu and Locke spoke, they talked a bit about the difficulties they had in educating their families about their political or public service ambitions.  Few Asian Americans are interested in Government or political work, particularly at least from the Midwest.
Locke at the podium and Chu in the background to his right.

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